The railroad must get through. Chicago must connect to Santa Fe. But I’m almost out of locomotives, my rivals are muscling in, and can I get three cards of the same colour?
Welcome to Ticket to Ride, the PC adaptation of a highly regarded board game (which I have not yet played). In Ticket, players claim train routes by playing cards – six yellow cards to connect Seattle to Helena in the above screenshot, for instance, or five blue cards to connect Atlanta to Miami. Long routes are worth more than short routes, but are correspondingly harder to claim. Furthermore, each player begins with a certain number of “tickets” – routes (Chicago to Santa Fe, in my above example) that reward the player if they are completed, and impose a penalty if they are not. Again, long-haul tickets are worth more – both on the upside and on the downside! – than their short-haul counterparts. Lastly, each route can only be claimed by one player at a time (although the game does provide some duplicate routes). So for example, I couldn’t go Denver -> Santa Fe in the above screenshot, but neither could the other players go Denver -> Omaha, or Chicago -> Pittsburgh, or Pittsburgh -> New York.
Now, these rules only take a minute to learn: plonking down yellow cards to claim a yellow train route is about as intuitive as game mechanics come. (And they don’t take much longer to play out: matches typically take 30-60 minutes.) But their interplay produces a game laden with risk, reward, and interesting choices. Do I save up for a long route, and run the risk of being beaten to it? Do I draw more tickets, gambling that I’ll be able to link them up before the game ends? Do I take this route, and if someone blocks me, can I find an alternate path? If you just want a relaxing two-player match, set to ambient music and choo-choo sounds, the game supports that. But mix in enough players (my favourite matches have 4 or more), and that last question becomes vital. Four-player games, in which players race for connections and dog-leg around unexpected barriers, are downright cutthroat!
The beauty of Ticket is how simply and elegantly it achieves this. When I started writing this review, I was going to describe this as a “lite” strategy game, but that would be a disservice. Quick to learn and quick to play this might be, but real depth, as well as clever design, lurk beneath its surface. Recommended to all strategy fans!
Note: the above comments are based on the PC (Steam) version of the game. An iPad version and a web version (for which there is a free trial) also exist.
Read more about the board game at boardgamegeek
Web version, which has a free trial
The basis of my review
Length of time spent with the game: Approx 5 hours of play (per Steam). I estimate this translates into 8-12 matches.
What I have played: A mix of single-player and multiplayer matches. The multiplayer matches involved one human opponent plus 0-2 bots. I have played every map available for the PC version (USA, USA 1910, Europe, Switzerland, and Asia).
What I have not played: n/a